Also known as network engineers, computer network architects design, build and install local area networks and other types of data communication networks. If you are fascinated by computers and their capability to communicate with each other, then this is a career you could enjoy.
1. What Do Computer Network Architects Do?
Their duties include:
- Assessing an organization’s operations to determine the type of network that will best meet its needs
- Creating a structural layout of the network and presenting it to clients for approval (a typical layout consists of transmission equipment, communication protocols, software, and outlines the connectivity between components)
- Outlining the specifications for the hardware and software that will be needed to support the network
- Identifying how wires or cables will be installed in a building
- Analyzing existing communication networking, identifying shortcomings and recommending upgrades
- Modifying the structure of existing networks to support an organization’s changing information technology needs
- Staying abreast of trends of network product developments, especially cloud computing.
2. Work Environment
Although computer network architects typically work from 9a to 5pm, Monday through Friday, they can put in longer working hours to beat tight project deadlines.
When they are not in their offices or laboratories designing networks, you can find them on client’s premises or field sites supervising installations.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, computer network architects in the US earn an average annual salary of $100,710.
4. Entry Requirements
The best way to become a computer network architect is to pursue a bachelor’s degree in computer networking. The program will equip you with the knowledge of:
- Network architecture
- Network analysis
- Network management
- Network design
- Security architecture.
Some of the colleges/universities offering this program include:
- Regis University, Colorado
- Hodges University, Florida
If you are unable to join any of these universities, you can also get started with a bachelor’s degree in computer science or information technology. You will, however, also need to gain experience in a relevant field to qualify for employment in this position. For instance, you can start out as a network administrator or systems analyst to gain the required experience.
5. Important Qualities
To be a competent computer network architect, you need:
- Excellent computer skills
- Excellent analytical skills
- Strong design skills
- A thorough understanding of modern computer network technologies
- Strong technical skills
- A keen attention to details
- Communication and teamwork skills
- Practical skills
- Internet proficiency
- A love for technology
6. Career Advancement
After getting hired as a computer network architect, engage in the following activities to enhance your career advancement prospects:
- Earn a professional certification – The IT industry has several certifications, so finding the one that suits you should not be a problem. Examples include Certified Network Engineer and CISCO Certified Network Professional.
- Pursue a master’s degree in IT project management or business administration.
- Join the National Association of Network Engineers and Administrators to access additional professional development resources such as workshops.
7. Job Opportunities
The employers of computer network architects include:
- Telecommunication companies
- IT consulting firms
- Network engineering firms
- Large businesses/institutions that require in-house network engineering services
As an experienced computer network architect, you can advance to become a computer and information systems manager or IT project manager.
Finally, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 15 percent (faster than average) job growth for computer network architects between 2012 and 2022.
So if you think you have what it takes to design and build computer networks, then perhaps you could become a computer network architect.